Empty Chair Policy
League of Women Voters of Falmouth
Candidate forums for primary, special and general elections are part of the League of Women Voters’ 100-year old tradition of helping voters obtain information about candidates’ stands on issues. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, political nonprofit organization that strives to protect citizens’ voting rights and deliver unbiased education to voters.
The Empty Chair Policy plays a vital role in our efforts to protect the vote and empower voters. It is based on an updated understanding of IRS rules regarding 501(c) (4) organization’s activities and a careful review of LWV’s mission, values and traditions. It reflects the changing climate of our political discourse and campaigns and the growing demand from voters for direct access to candidates and substantive discussion of issues.
This policy will take effect when a candidate for a contested office is unable or unwilling to participate in a LWVF educational forum.
- LWVF will invite all candidates registered with the Town Clerk for a given contested office to participate in our events. All candidates will be simultaneously issued invitations to the address provided to the Town Clerk by the candidates when they file their nomination papers. This includes email addresses, but if an email address is not available from the Town Clerk, the regular mail address filed with the Town Clerk may be used for that candidate. Invitations will include a copy of this policy.
- If an invited candidate is unable or decides not to appear at a scheduled event, the event will still be held. This is the case even if only one candidate appears. Unopposed candidates may also be invited to participate in an event depending on time considerations.
- No substitutions or stand-ins for the candidates will be allowed.
- The moderator will announce that all candidates were invited to participate. In announcing that a candidate is not participating, the moderator will present a brief statement that a candidate either did not respond or declined to participate. No editorial comment will be made.
- According to the design of the event, the candidate or candidates who choose to attend may have an opportunity to make opening and/or closing statements as well as express their positions on issues in response to questions put forth by the LWVF and/or submitted by the audience. In an extraordinary circumstance and at the discretion of LWVF, a candidate who is unable or unwilling to attend may submit a two-minute statement to be read by the moderator.
- All media outlets that typically cover LWVF events will be notified of this policy in press releases, media interviews, social media and other communications prior to the event.
- LWVF events will be conducted in accordance with event rules as provided to candidates with their invitations.